Archive for April, 2010

El Greco – Lady in a Fur Wrap

Friday, April 23rd, 2010
El Greco c.1577-79

Image courtesy of Glasgow Museums

This is one of El Greco’s most famous and enigmatic paintings and it resides here in Glasgow in Pollok House, in Pollok Park.

 The portrait was purchased by Sir William Stirling Maxwell in 1853 and nothing is known about its history before the 19th century.  It had been exhibited in the Louvre in Paris and its beauty and immediacy had given it a considerable reputation.

The painting depicts a lady with noble bearing in a wrap of sable fur.   She has pink cheeks and red lips and is evidently a real woman. 

The majority of works by El Greco have elongated figures of women as saints, virgins and martyrs with anguished looks – so this is something very different.

Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541-1614) was actually born in Greece, on the island of Crete but after studying in Venice under Titian, he settled in Toledo, Spain and became known as El Greco. 

He never married but had a mistress, Jeronima, who bore him a cherished son, Jorge. 

The sitter was originally thought to be El Greco’s daughter.  However, although it is known that he had a son, Jorge, there is no record of his having had a daughter. It was also thought that it may be the second daughter of Philip II of Spain, the Infanta Catalina, but again this is unlikely as royal portraits were very stiff and formal and it is doubtful whether anyone of royal blood would have been painted in such a casual fashion. It is much more likely that it is El Greco’s mistress Jeronima.

Visit Pollok House to see this beautiful painting, exhibited in the Library, or contact us to arrange a private viewing of this and the Spanish Art collection in Pollok House.

Easter Tour

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

The Virgin & Child with the Infant St John the Baptist and Two Angels
Workshop of Pesellino – mid 15th century (The Renaissance Chapel)
This painting is heavily symbolic and the Latin inscription on the frame translates to ‘Behold the Virgin bears a child’. The bird held by Jesus is probably a swallow which is linked to the resurrection because it comes back year after year in Spring. The rosebush symbolises Mary (the rose) and Jesus’ death (the crown of thorns). The dove represents one of the Holy Trinity – the Holy Spirit.

Virgin and Child by a Fountain
Bernard van Orley
Mary’s parents are in the background of this painting and it is heavy with symbolism. The water symbolises the fountain of life and the enclosed garden represents virginity. Mary is the centrepiece of the painting and she is therefore proportionally larger than anything else in the painting.

The Adulteress Brought Before Christ
School of Titian c. 1510
The story is taken from St John’s Gospel and shows the scribes and the pharisees who brought an adulteress woman before Jesus to see what he would do. They wished to stone her so Jesus asked that the whoever was without sin should cast the first stone. They all disappeared and Jesus told the woman to go away and sin no more. The clothing on each of the figures is contemporary Venetian dress. At some stage the figure on the far right of the painting was cut away, although fortunately not all of it was lost and in 1971 Kelvingrove acquired the painting of the head at auction.

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist
Carol Dolci 1680

This story is taken from the Bible, Matthew Chapter 14. Herod, King of the Jews, had married his sister-in-law Herodias, after the death of his brother. John the Baptist preached against this marriage and the decadent lifestyle of the family. Herod imprisoned John the Baptist but didn’t wish to kill him. At his birthday celebrations Salome, Herod’s step-daughter, danced for him and he promised her anything she asked for. After consulting her mother she asked for the head of John the Baptist and Herod was unable to refuse. The green background colour which shows through is as a result of poor restoration many years ago.

Christ of St John of the Cross
Salvador Dali 1951
Finish your tour of religious art with this iconic painting. Based on a pen and ink drawing of the visions of a Carmelite friar called St John of the Cross, this was purchased for Glasgow Museums in 1952.

Kelvingrove Exterior

Image courtesy of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau